i'm actually about a month behind in posting the june bio, but i'm including it here because i find alvin ailey interesting, both as an individual and as a part of my own family's saga. by the way, the four element theory (sometimes a five element theory) is a very ancient and well-respected way of understanding natural phenomena. The ancient Greeks, fathers of western civilization, used this method of understanding the world, and it is at the base of modern science as well. Therefore, let us not eschew it!
i actually first came across the theory in the writings of c.s.lewis, medievalist among other things, and also in some of my early explorations of chinese philosophy when i was in high school. i also wrote my theology thesis on the four elements back in 1985, so I have a long history with this stuff. Naturally I'm going to share some of my thoughts on this subject here.
* * *
born on January 5, 1931, Alvin Ailey, master choreographer and founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, is a Metal Horse with high aspirations and a strong desire to 'arrive' even without any great clarity as to the goal. Metal Horse just 'has the stuff' to make himself successful, and success and responsibility came early to Ailey, who took over the artistic directorship at age 22 of his mentor Lester Horton's Dance Company after the unexpected death of Horton. Ailey's Earth Mouse month would make him someone others view as a natural leader, and that seems to have been the case at this moment in Ailey's life.
Wikipedia writes, "Horton's sudden death in November 1953 left the company without an artistic director. The company had outstanding contracts that required new works. When no one else stepped forward, Ailey assumed the role of artistic director. Despite his youth and inexperience (Ailey was only twenty-two and had only choreographed one dance in a workshop) he began choreographing, directing scene and costume designs, and running rehearsals."
Ailey's Metal Monkey day gives him the sparkle, charisma and verve necessary for stardom, and the combination of Mouse and Monkey offer him Water Trinity karma. In his pillars, Water represents self-expression and creativity, in addition to Water's usual qualities of influence, intimacy, grace and flow. Witness the flowing lines typical of Alvin Ailey's dancers.
Ailey came into his own in 1953, during Metal Rabbit period, with his assumption of the helm of the Horton Dance Company, and during that period and the Water Dragon period following, created many original compositions, including his most famous work, Revelations, performed in 1960. He continued to work and create during Water Snake period, and died in 1989 during Wood Horse period. Wood Horse is notorious for extreme forward movement, and changes in direction.
Known for his eclectic style, Alvin Ailey was born during Earth Rabbit hour. The presence of Earth Rabbit in the Four Pillars often signals an unusual sense of ethnicity. It may indicate issues with belonging, or, more often, a movement toward reconciling disparate elements within oneself or one's community. Paula Gunn Allen, a mixed-native American author, who wrote extensively on native american history and literature, with an eye always focused on the blendings of culture that are a part of that history and literature, was an Earth Rabbit, as was my grandfather who was a member of the Moorish Science Temple in Philadelphia, even though he was perceived by most people as white. These people are not localized in a single ethnic, racial or cultural identification. Sometimes they feel lonely and isolated as a result of this lack of any kind of clear 'belonging.'
Wikipedia writes, "Horton's school taught a wide range of dance styles and techniques, including classical ballet, jazz, and Native American dance. Horton's school was also the first multi-racial dance school in the United States. Ailey's choreography was a dynamic and vibrant mix growing out of his previous training in ballet, modern dance, jazz, and African dance techniques. For his signature work, Revelations, Ailey drew upon his "blood memories" of Texas, the blues, spirituals, and gospel. Ailey was proud that his company was multi-racial. While he wanted to give opportunities to black dancers, who were frequently excluded from performances by racist attitudes at the time, he also wanted to rise above issues of negritude. His company always employed artists based solely on artistic talent and integrity regardless of their race." This is the stuff of the Earth Rabbit.
Ailey's forward-moving, creative Horse, in combination with his gentle but masterful Earth Mouse, and the eclectic, eccentric Earth Rabbit made him sexually attractive, yet Horse and Monkey made him Lonely, Horse and Mouse gave him 'Attract and Clash,' and Mouse and Rabbit 'Two Penalties,' a karma of mental unrest, so that while a great deal of creative energy was indeed there, everything was not a bed of roses for Ailey in his personal life. In terms of his element balance, Power (Fire) is weak, and there is nothing in the literature to suggest that Ailey was one of those autocratic artistic diretors. In fact, his strong points were Resources, Friends and Self-expression. Wealth was not great, but certainly adequate, and Power is his least dominant element. Wikipedia writes, "Though Ailey created 79 works for his dancers, he maintained that his company was not merely a showcase for his own work."
I chose to write about Alvin Ailey as my example of a Metal Horse birth at least in part because my former neighbors, who were good friends with my mother, had been modern dancers before she was struck down by myasthenia gravis, and every year, when the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater came through town, they would attend and rave for weeks. They often took my mother to these performances, which represented to her, not only the beauty of a rarified aesthetic sensibility, but also an ideal of racial harmony in America.